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Rice and maize farmers take a break in Tanzania

Opinion: Property rights and the challenges of transplanting institutions

Since the time of Adam Smith, economists have understood that the wealth or poverty of nations hinge on the quality of their institutions. Political, economic and social rules of the game can be inclusive, offering opportunities for prosperity to all, or extractive, protecting the rents of a few. But the international effort to introduce one such rule – formal property rights – shows that even simple changes can have complex and unwelcome effects in alien cultural settings.

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